Dr. Tashiro received his PhD in psychology from the University of Minnesota and has been an award-winning professor at the University of Maryland and University of Colorado. He is also a social scientist, relationship expert, and published author of books including, THE SCIENCE OF HAPPILY EVER AFTER and AWKWARD: The Science of Why We're Socially Awkward and Why That's Awesome. In his professional career, Dr. Tashiro also served as the Chief Science Officer at Connectidy, a platform that leveraged IBM's Watson AI platform to improve decision-making at scale.
What made you personally interested in psychedelics?
I became fascinated by two unusual outcomes found in some psychedelic clinical trials. The first unusual finding is that psychedelic therapeutics shows unusually promising outcomes with people who have not found psychological relief from typical treatments. The second outcome that caught my attention was what happens after people have stopped treatment. In most clinical trials, the average effects of treatment decline during the post-treatment months, but in some psychedelic therapeutic trials the average effects actually improve. These unusual findings and others sparked my intense curiosity about the unique potential of psychedelic therapeutics.
How would you describe MindCure’s approach to the psychedelic space?
During my first few months at MindCure, I’ve been struck by the team’s genuine interest in being client-centered. It’s exciting that the psychedelic space is a wide-open and full of possibility, but that fluidity can also make it easy for folks to lose their way. So, if we start with the basic question, “What’s best for clients?”, it has a way setting subsequent goals on the right path.
What is your role at Mind Cure and what will you be focused on building?
I’m a Senior Translational and Psychometric Architect who works on building iSTRYM, MindCure’s digitial therapeutics platform.
Can you talk about what MINDCURE’s digital therapeutics platform is and how you want it to help patients?
MindCure’s digital therapeutics platform, iSTRYM, is an innovative tool for assessing client needs, providing data-driven insights, and ensuring that clients’ receive the highest standard of care. My impression of health apps is that they do a great job of helping you understand an aspect of your wellness such as physical activity, sleep, or mood. But they rarely integrate that information to provide users with meaningful insights that answers the two questions people really want to know: “What does this data mean for me?” and “Based on this data, what are suggestions for what I could do?” One of the things that makes MindCure’s vision for iSTRYM unique is the bold ambition to integrate data in ways that will provide clients with meaningful insights and direction.
How will you leverage your experience as the Chief Science Officer for Connectidy working with IBM's Watson AI?
That experience really opened my eyes to how one could responsibly harness AI to give people access to the best social science available. In my personal life, when I read expert advice about something outside my specialty area, I often wonder, “Well how would I turn that advice into something actionable?” When handled with a user-first mentality, AI can be a powerful tool that bridges the typical divide between advice and effective action.
How do you see digital therapeutics growing and changing in the near future?
For people to thrive, digital therapeutics cannot be comfortable with providing disembodied “tracking” or “nudges”. Your step-count, meditation time, or any other metric is just one piece of a bigger picture, and so digital therapeutics has to leverage the technologies available to send users more holistic messages about their physical and mental health. Technology has already done made significant strides with integrating your devices (e.g., phone, laptop, speaker), the same drive toward integration needs to happen with digital therapeutics.
What is the most common misconception you hear about psychedelics?
I grew up hearing exaggerated proclamations about psychedelic risks. While the movement needs to be aware and take seriously any potential risks, the accumulation of studies over the years suggests that psychedelic therapeutics can be a safe and effective intervention.
What do you believe is the most important thing for people to understand about the future of psychedelics as medicine?
I have two competing thoughts, and I hope to keep these thoughts in competition. On the one hand, psychedelics may be a game-changer for mental health. It will not solve everything, but it has the potential to be a powerful force for good. On the other hand, we have to maintain humility about what we don’t know, and carefully track client safety and wellness. For me, the best way forward is to maintain this tension between hopefulness and judiciousness.
Who else is doing important work within psychedelics you think more people should be aware of?
There are so many people doing important work, but I try to keep a broad focus. In particular, I want to be ever mindful of the long-standing cultural traditions outside of western medical science that hold tremendous wisdom about how to responsibly handle psychedelics’ powerful possibilities.